Eastern water dragon

Physignathus lesueurii

The Eastern water dragon is found from Cooktown in Queensland, throughout New South Wales, and Eastern Victoria. There are two known forms – the Eastern and the Gippsland. The Gippsland form is only found in the Gippsland area of Victoria, and is notably different in colouration and size. Compared to other dragons, the Eastern water dragon is quite long lived, having a life span of around 20 years in the wild.

        Appearance and Characteristics.

Growing up to a meter in length, the impressive Water dragon is the largest of the dragon species in Australia. It is especially adapted to an aquatic life, with a long tail that is up to two thirds of its length, and nostrils right on top of its nose. Whenever threatened, he will take to the water, where he can submerge from several minutes up to an hour to escape predators or climb a tree using his powerful legs and long claws.

 The males of this species are recognizable by their bright red chest which grows in colour intensity in breeding season. Both males and females have a row of spines that start at the top of the head and run all the way down the body and tail, giving them a prehistoric look.

The Water dragon’s upper body is a grey-green with cream and black transverse bands on the body and tail. Underneath the body is creamy brown-grey. They have loose folds of skin under the jaw, giving them an almost Bearded dragon appearance for which they are often mistaken. The easiest way to differentiate between the two species is the location of the spines. If the spines run perfectly down the back from the skull to the tail, like a crest, then the animal is a Water dragon.

    Reproductive Cycle.

During the mating season, males chests grow in colour intensity to a bright vibrant red colouration. The males will fight for territory rights during this period, with the battles becoming very violent. It is not uncommon for some males to have significant injuries. Once the dominant male has been found, he will mate with all females in his territory.

 After mating, the female digs a hole into the soft sand along the river bank where she lays about 15 – 25 eggs. She then abandons the eggs, and plays no active role in parenting. Depending on the temperature of the egg chamber, they can take up to three months to hatch. The hatchlings are miniature replicas of their parents, and are totally independent from birth.

    Diet and Habitat.

   The Eastern water dragon is always found in or near water. They are never found without a reliable water source nearby and will not venture far from the safety of their watery homes.